MCCC Security Officer Saves Grateful Co-Worker


By his own admission, John Wambach, a security officer and EMT at Mercer County Community College, does not meet the definition of a reasonable person. "You can define a reasonable person as one who runs away from fire and does not crawl into a mangled car," said Wambach, a resident of Florence and a pastor at his local church. "I run towards the fire and crawl into the wrecked car."

According to his co-worker, security officer Joe Lugo, of Hamilton, this unreasonable man saved his life. "My cardiologist told me that if it wasn't for John, I wouldn't be alive today," Lugo said. On a Monday morning in early November, Lugo, 68, was directing traffic at the MCCC Conference Center. Feeling acute chest pain, he immediately asked to be taken to the Security Office and have them call Wambach.

Wambach recalls that his co-worker exhibited all the classic symptoms of a heart attack: shortness of breath, pain in the center of the chest that radiated to the jaw, difficulty breathing, and a face drained of color. After taking Lugo's vital signs, Wambach placed him in a comfortable position to help him breathe. He collected all the medical and personal information the rescue squad would need once they arrived to expedite the transfer to the hospital. "I also kept him calm," Wambach said.

MCCC security officers John Wambach and Joe Lugo

An associate pastor at the Weslyan Church in Florence for the past five years, Wambach says that he draws on his pastoral training at these times. "I find myself playing a dual role. Sometimes I send up silent prayers while working on someone." Wambach has also served as a pastor in churches in Browns Mills, NJ, and Virginia.

Wambach has been an EMT at Mercer since he began working at the college six years ago. Previously he was a health and safety officer at Burlington County College, where he was originally asked to train as an EMT 13 years ago and willingly accepted. He has also been a volunteer on the Florence Rescue Squad, holding practically every post - president, vice president, "you name it," he said. "When I'm running with the squad, I'm not the guy up front flashing the lights. I'm the one in the back administering to the patient. I like to work hands-on." And living in a small community like Florence, "where everybody knows everybody, and everybody is related," Wambach gets to find out the end of the story once the patient is dropped off at the hospital.

For Joe Lugo, the holiday season is looking particularly bright. Just one month ago, Lugo's son Eddie, a Hamilton Township police officer, and his wife, had a baby girl they named Madison. Proudly pointing to a photo of his granddaughter posed in a Santa cap, Lugo said, "John saved my life for this. I'm living for her and for the rest of my family."

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